Petersfield’s Dragon Street is aptly named for its latest restaurant recruit, the Thai Lemongrass which only opened last Friday.
The Year of the Dragon started on January 23, but in the Thai Kingdom’s Chinese Thai communities the revelries began on the 19th.
Yet every day seems to be a celebration in a Thai restaurant thanks to colourful décor, beautifully-dressed staff in traditional outfits and flower arrangements. All dishes at Lemongrass are served with those beautiful carved vegetables, adding a further layer of festivity.
Only the jarring pop music dispels the feeling of good cheer, a choice at odds with the soothing décor. This is a mix of modern and traditional throughout the Tardis-like restaurant, the larger part sporting a peaceful waterfall. Gold and wood carved deities, glass sculptures and other artefacts punctuate the rooms, one devoted to cushion-seated dining. Staff are charming and friendly yet formal.
The menu is familiar, with dishes spiced by Thai chef Mr Prapuan, ‘who has an artful hand.’ Choose Thai fishcakes with crushed peanuts and cucumber in a sweet chilli sauce; dim sum; deep-fried squid; queen scallops with lemongrass, ginger and soya; Thai soups; salads including the famed beef one with coriander and a hot and sour dressing.
Mains are extensive. Try grilled meats and fish; soft shell crab; crispy salmon with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce; Thai green curries and many vegetarian dishes. They demonstrate – as all dishes do – stock ingredients which make Thai food so darned attractive both to the eye and palate (coconut milk, sweet basil leaves, coriander, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chillis amongst others).
The fishcakes were typical, kind of rubbery but extremely tasty, aided and abetted by the cashew-strewn chilli sauce. A turnip, fashioned into a large rose, appeared on my next dish, duck slices with onion, peppers, spring onions and chilli. The ‘artful hand’ was not called to action in this stir-fry, his art found more so in the curries. But a sure hand was definitely in charge. The duck was tender, the whole encompassed in a lovely garlic soya sauce.
Desserts in Thai restaurants are usually ice cream and fruit, but Lemongrass ups the game with black sticky rice with sweet banana and Thai pancakes and caramelised coconut just two of the choices at £4.50. Starters run from £5, mains from £8, the most expensive dishes at £14.95.
This small chain – there are branches in Chichester and elsewhere – is a smart outfit, no doubt about it. Well-judged cooking, prices and décor will, I think, result in a roaring success in Petersfield. Just can the music and you’ll get a ‘khob khun krub’ (thank you) from me. My bill came to just over £20, including a glass of wine but not service.
Lemongrass, 16-18 Dragon Street, Petersfield GU31 4JJ
Tel: 01730 267077
Open: Noon-2.30 pm and 5.30pm-11pm every day.
Food: Four (out of five)
Atmosphere: Four (bar the music)
How to get there: Follow signs on the A3 to Petersfield. Dragon Street is at the end of the High Street where you should turn right, the restaurant on the left. On-street parking.